Managing Long-Term Infertility

About 15% of American couples experience infertility, which is defined as the inability to conceive after a year of trying. About 7% of couples will conceive in the second year. But that leaves many couples struggling with infertility over an extended period of time.

Infertility causes a tremendous strain on mental health and relationships. As a psychotherapist focusing on couples therapy including infertility, I encourage you to seek counseling support early in the process of dealing with infertility so you have the help you need right from the start.

Up to 60% of individuals dealing with infertility, both men and women, report psychiatric symptoms of some kind, but the incidence rate seems higher among women. Nearly 41% of infertile women report experiencing depression and 87% experience anxiety. Men may deal with more emotional issues than they are willing to admit. 

It’s important that both of you get counseling support because infertility can contribute to partnership and marital discord. The desire to have a child together should not be the cause of your breakup. It is a beautiful desire and should be nurtured and protected from the emotional stress that infertility can cause. 

A major source of stress can come from the people around you and their often unintentionally hurtful questions and comments. Be sure to set clear boundaries with family, friends, and loved ones about who you will discuss your infertility with and how much. 

Close family may have a strong desire to help you and support you and may offer advice that they consider helpful. It may be helpful, and perhaps should not be discounted out of hand, but you must set clear parameters with them. I often help my clients come up with plans and wording to help put boundaries on relationships while avoiding damaging those very relationships that you need as support.

But not all relationships deserve the same level of familiarity. While your employer may need to know why you have frequent doctor appointments, your co-workers don’t. If you choose to tell them that you are undergoing treatments to conceive, be very clear that this is not for office discussion. 

Keep your options open. For instance, some couples disregard out of hand the idea of adoption. Although adoption is not for everyone, just knowing that it’s an option can help ease your mind that you can, one way or another, have a family.

Finally, take care of yourself. Find ways to get your mind off of your infertility, things you can enjoy individually and as a couple. Pick up a new hobby or return to an old favorite. Find something you both like to do together, especially if it’s good for your health, like biking or ballroom dancing. Enjoy intimacy together just for the love of each other, not with the primary intention to conceive. Eat calming foods, not those high in sugar and carbs that can cause your metabolism to rev and then crash. And get plenty of rest.

If you’re dealing with infertility and you need some help navigating your emotions and relationships, I’m here to help. I’ve helped many couples through the ups and downs of fertility issues to come out stronger on the other side, both as individuals and as a couple.

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